Former Japanese PM Seeks to Mend Ties with South Korea

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama has stepped front and center into the argument over history between his country and South Korea. He is famous for the so-called ‘Murayama statement’ in 1995 apologizing for Imperial Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, he said, "Japan…through its colonial rule and digression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," he further went on to say "[I] express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and submit my heartfelt apology."


During a recent visit to Seoul, Murayama said all Japanese prime ministers are bound by the apology he made back in 1995.  And the current one, Shinzo Abe, had no choice but to do the same.  Murayama’s statement got wide play in South Korea and Japan. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.


Reporter:

Murayama is the former leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, which is currently in opposition. He is on a private visit to South Korea – invited by the country's opposition lawmakers.


Tomiichi Murayama:

I am convinced that my statement has national consensus. Therefore, I can assure you that Mr. Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, cannot deny my apology.


Reporter:

Murayama called on South Koreans to work to improve relations with Japan that have soured over historical and other issues.


Tomiichi Murayama:

Japan and South Korea must maintain friendly ties. For their mutual benefit, the development of the whole Asian region and world peace.


Reporter:

South Korean president Park Guen-hye reportedly considered meeting with Murayama, but decided not to.

 
 

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Bangkok Declares State of Emergency as Protests Heat Up
Kwanchai Praipana, an outspoken leader of the so-called ‘red shirt party’ – those people who support the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – was wounded after gunmen fired on his house. The attack came on the first day of a state of emergency imposed by Yingluck and is the latest in a string of shootings and bombings in Thailand. The newly declared state of emergency in and around the capital seems to have had no effect so far. Protesters are still occupying major roads, intersections and business districts. Here’s NHK's report.

Reporter:
The day after the government announcement the demonstrators are still in place across the capital while the authorities looked on as before.

Demonstrator:
They have no way out. That’s why they declared a state of emergency. They are trying to cover us up.

Reporter:
Since late last week, there have been bombed attacks targeting demonstrators. One person has been killed and more than 60 injured. Fears are growing over the deteriorating security situation. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has so far given no indication that she intends to remove the protestors’ camps in the wake of the emergency declaration. The ongoing security operation is being laid by the police while the Thai military is remaining neutral and observing developments. Meanwhile on Wednesday the election committee asked the constitutional courts to decide if it has the right to delay the upcoming election.

The current tensions highlight more than 8 years of division in Thai society. Prime minister Yingluck and her brother, the self-exiled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, still have strong support in rural parts of northern and northeastern Thailand. The anti-Thaksin side relies mostly on the urban middle class for support.

Despite the current state of emergency, the protestors are going nowhere and are sticking to their demand that next month general election be postponed. They also say deep reforms are necessary before any poll can be held. However, if the government decides to use force to crack down on the protest movement, the potential for even greater unrest is clear to see.
 
 

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Thailand's Opposition Rejects Elections, Ramps up Protests
Thailand protestsThailand's political crisis does not seem to be easing. Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra had offered to meet with her opponents to try to solve the impasse. But they won't talk. They want Yingluck to resign and cancel next month's elections. She's refused and said elections would go ahead February 2nd. Meantime, big street protests continue in Bangkok. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

Reporter:
The prime minister offered to meet with the opposition on Wednesday to discuss an Election Commission proposal to delay the general election. However, opposition leaders are boycotting the poll entirely, and declined to join the discussion. Yingluck said the election would be held on February 2nd as scheduled.

Yingluck Shinawatra:
It is our job to hold an election in accordance with the law and the constitution.

Reporter:
The leader of the anti-government demonstrators, Suthep Thaugsuban, expressed his opposition.

Suthep Thaugsuban:
I don't know who was at the meeting today. But the people don't agree with holding an election under the same rules and same laws. Such an election would allow vote-buying and vote-rigging and would be impure and unfair.

Reporter:
The protesters surrounded several government offices in a bid to prevent civil servants from getting to work. The anti-government side, which draws largely on the country's urban middle class for its support, insists the election be postponed until political reforms are made. But Yingluck's Pheu Thai party is reportedly ahead in the race to polling day, with especially strong support in the rural areas. The shutdown campaign had been relatively peaceful since the shutdown campaign began on Monday. However, police say at least three people were injured in a shooting near the rally site on Wednesday morning. No one was hurt by an explosion near the house of former Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, now leader of the largest opposition party. No suspects have been identified.
 
 

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Bangladesh: Prime Minister Denies Election Fraud Allegations
BangladeshBangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shrugged off accusations that last Sunday's elections were illegitimate. This in spite of a boycott of the voting by 18 opposition parties, including the large Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Japan's national broadcaster, NHK, reports from Dhaka.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh:
It doesn't mean that there will be a question of legitimacy or anything more. People participated in the poll, and other political parties, they participated. And election, well definitely it is our constitutional obligation to hold elections.

Reporter:
In the election, more than half of the parliamentary seats up for grabs were uncontested after the largest opposition party and 17 other groups refused to take part. The ruling Awami League is expected to win more than two-thirds of the seats. Clashes between opposition supporters and security forces have left many people dead or wounded. The prime minister labeled the protests terrorist activities. Hasina said that if opposition leaders want to hold discussions with the government, the have to stop terrorist activities.
 
 

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Japan to Ramp Up Military Under Banner of 'Proactive Pacifism'

Japan's militaryJapan has taken a major step in modernizing its military. Since the end of World War Two, Japan's defense forces have been limited by a strict interpretation of its pacifist constitution. But prime minister Shinzo Abe has broken through those limits. His cabinet has passed a wide-ranging defense program. Japan's public broadcaster NHK aired this report on December 17th.

 

Shinzo Abe:
Japan will contribute further to international peace and stability from the stance of "proactive pacifism."

Reporter:
The strategy says China's foreign policies and military posture are matters of concern for Japan and other nations. And, it adds, they must be monitored closely. The paper says recent moves by China indicate authorities in Beijing may be trying to use force to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. But it says they are using claims that are inconsistent with international law. It says Japan will work to establish strategic and mutually-beneficial ties with China from a broad, long-term perspective. It notes leaders in Tokyo will call for restraint from their counterparts in Beijing. The strategy says Japan will consider reviewing its policy on arms exports. Currently, such exports are essentially banned. The strategy also emphasizes the need to raise public awareness about national security.

The guidelines recommend greater operational integration between Japan's air, ground, and maritime Self-Defense Forces. They say units should be more mobile and they say Japan should enhance its deterrence and response capabilities by securing necessary and sufficient power. Specifically, they call for the creation of an amphibious brigade within the ground Self-Defense Force. The unit would quickly respond to an invasion of remote islands and re-take them. The guidelines say it should be equipped with 52 amphibious vehicles, and an increased number of destroyers and fighter aircraft. The package calls for the introduction of 17 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, three drones and 99 combat vehicles. The aim is to strengthen mobility and surveillance activities. The guidelines say Japanese leaders should assess their capability to respond to North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities. Analysts see this as a reference to a possibility of a shift in policy that would allow them to strike enemy bases.

 
 

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Weekly Roundup of News from Japan's NHK World NEWSLINE
Thuy Vu:
The latest crisis at Japan's crippled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant: Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company announced another leak of highly radioactive water. Six workers were exposed to radioactive liquid. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, filed this report on the radiation leak on October 9th.

Reporter:
Tokyo Electric Power Company says workers mistakenly disconnected the pipe carrying radioactive water. This caused toxic wastewater to wet six of eleven workers, spraying radioactive substances onto their skin. TEPCO staff are now checking their exposure level. Company officials say the water continued leaking for about one hour. They say some seven tons of spilled water is presently being contained. It is highly radioactive at about 34 million Becquerel's of beta ray-emitting material per liter. Human error has caused a string of recent mishaps at the Fukushima plant.

--

Shinzo AbeThuy Vu:
Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, spent time at this week's summits talking defense. Japan, like four other Southeast Asian nations, has a territorial dispute with China. And Abe told Indonesia's president that Japan is going to take a more active role in the region's security problems. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, reported on the summit on October 8th.

Reporter:
Abe told President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that Japanese officials will play a more active role in maintaining peace and stability. He referred to China's presence in the South China Sea. Chinese leaders have been arguing with their counterparts from other nations over the sovereignty of various islands. Abe offered to help those leaders deal with their territorial disputes. Yudhoyono agreed they need to draw up a maritime code of conduct to insure the rule of law.

--

Thuy Vu:
An animal on the list of critically endangered species has been captured on video. The Sumatran rhinoceros was thought to be extinct in Indonesia. And this is the first time in decades that conservationists have recorded one. Decades of poaching and deforestation have reduced the number of Sumatran rhinos left in the wild to less than 300. Japan's NHK covered the story on October 8th.

Reporter:
The rhinos are native to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, but locals cut away at the forest in which they lived. And poachers harvested their horns for use in Chinese medicine. So their population declined drastically. Specialists with the World Wildlife Fund and local officials installed cameras in 16 locations to try to catch one on camera. They were delighted with their success. A WWF official says they hope to work with authorities to ensure that measures are in place to protect the animal.
 
 

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Chinese Tourists Flocking to Japan Despite Tense Relations

SenkakuRelations between Japan and China are more than a little rocky at the moment. What's getting all the attention is a territorial dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands south of Okinawa. Both countries claim them. The dispute has hurt Japanese travel to China. But as Japan public broadcaster NHK reports, Chinese don't seem to be deterred from visiting Japan.

 

--


Reporter:
The centuries old Forbidden City is a popular site in Beijing, but take a look around and you hardly see any Japanese visitors. Travel agency owner, Sun Bo, says it's been this way for almost a year.

Sun Bo:
It's so bad, business is down 80 to 90 percent. I'm making no money at all. My business is almost in the red.

Reporter:
Sun works with a major firm in Japan to bring Japanese groups to China. But as relations remain tense between the countries, fewer Japanese are choosing to come. On the other hand, Chinese businesses arranging tours to Japan have seen a rebound in business. In the past two months, Japan's embassy in Beijing has issued 10 percent more tourist visas compared to the same time last year.

Chinese Tourist:
Political relations between China and Japan are not so good. But that has no impact at the grassroots level.

Reporter:
And it's not just for holidays. Japan is still attracting many young Chinese wanting to stay for an extended time. Last month, Liu Muyan began a year of studies at this school in Nagano. It's part of an exchange program set up by the Japanese government several years ago to promote mutual understanding between the countries.

Liu Muyan:
I'm sure that I can become a bridge that links the people of Japan and China.

Japanese Student:
I was expecting him to be anti-Japanese, but he is seeker to learn all he can about Japan. And his Japanese is good. This experience taught me not to be misled what other say.

Reporter:
This expert says people like Liu are exactly what Japan and China need.

Satoshi Amako: The scale of misunderstanding may grow time goes by, but exchanges are taking place between people from the two countries on a daily bases. Those people deserve our attention. I think they should have more prominence.

Reporter:
So while the governments of Japan and China continue to seek ways to mend ties, some regular people are already forging ahead. Improving relations and understanding to strengthen ties.

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Pakistan is reeling from a horrific suicide bombing. More than 80 people were killed and more than a hundred others were injured after an Episcopalian church was attacked. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

 

--


Reporter:
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up among hundreds of worshippers in a church in Peshawar. Sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shi'a groups has been rampant. But attacks against Christians have been rare in the predominant Muslim country. A local Islamic extremist group has claimed responsibility. They said all non-Muslim groups are targets and the attack was to retaliate against US drone strikes in Pakistan. Christians called for an end to the violence. They protested across the country including the capital, Islamabad, and in Karachi in the south.

 
 

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Burma's Belated Memorial for the '88 Generation
 
 

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UN Secretary General Scolds Japan, Draws Criticism
Ban Ki-moonThe South Korea-born UN secretary general has unsettled Japan by making comments about the Second World War. Ban Ki-moon told a news conference in Seoul that Japanese politicians should reflect deeply about their country's history. Recent statements by Japanese politicians to downplay, or even deny, Japanese aggression against its neighbors before and during World War Two have angered China and South Korea. And Japanese media jumped all over Ban's comments. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, aired the following report on August 26.

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Reporter:
Ban was speaking to reporters in Seoul on Monday during a visit to his homeland of South Korea. A reporter asked about the deteriorating relations between the East Asian neighbors due to conflicting interpretations of their shared history. Ban responded by saying the tension over historical and political differences is regrettable. He then asserted that the problem lies with the Japanese side.

Ban Ki-moon:
The Japanese government and political leaders need to reflect deeply. They need to have an international and future-oriented vision.

Reporter:
Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan once commented on the issue but simply said that history cannot be erased. Analysts say Ban may now face criticism for a lack of neutrality.
 
 

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Japanese Honor War Dead at Controversial Shrine

Yasukuni ShrineAugust 15th marks the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two. It's also the day when Japanese honor their war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. Yasukuni is controversial because it also commemorates fifteen men convicted for war crimes. So, paying respects at the shrine angers many in Japan and abroad, because they view the shrine as a memorial to Japanese militarism. This year, many notables, including members of the Japanese government, stayed away from Yasukuni. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, reported from the shrine.

 

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Reporter:
Many Japanese observe this rite year after year. They head to Yasukuni shrine which honors the war dead. They stop and pray for those who died for Japan.

Shrine visitor 1:
I'd like to come here as long as I live and pray that my father's soul is in peace.

Shrine visitor 2:
My father died in the war. I come here to feel close to him, even at my age.

Reporter:
This shinto shrine was constructed in the late 1800s to honor those who sacrificed their lives in the process of building Japan. The shrine commemorates two and a half million people. In the 1970s, officials here decided to enshrine wartime military and political leaders. Some have been convicted of war crime by the international military tribunal after World War Two. A number of Japanese lawmakers visit every year on this day. About one hundred came today, including members of the cabinet.

Yoshitaka Shindo, Japanese Official:
I came here today to pay my respects to those who devoted themselves to protect the country and their loved ones.

Reporter:
Chinese and South Korean leaders have criticized their Japanese counterparts for going to the shrine. Four South Korean lawmakers tried to get in to protest in person, but police blocked them to prevent trouble. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said other members of his cabinet were free to visit on the anniversary. He chose not to go. He says he will not disclose whether he will visit the shrine in the future, noting that it could cause diplomatic difficulties.

 
 

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